The twenty-eighth Exe Sails and Covers Starcross Steamer was held on Sunday February 25th. This was the second race of the three race South West Series and the seventh in the longer new 10 race Sailing Southwest series. The Steamer is getting more and more popular and the limit of 100 boats was reached within a week of the entries being open, over a month before the event.
For well over a week the weather forecast was for a temperature 5 degrees with Easterly winds, with some predictions indicating the wind would gust to gale force, which naturally put off some competitors travelling long distances. On the day the predicted wind direction and temperature were about right, but the wind on the sheltered Exe estuary was fairly steady at 17 knots gusting up to just over 20, ideal for sailing, and giving everyone a chance for the top spot. So the 80 boats who did venture out were able to enjoy winter sailing at its best and see the Exe estuary in beautiful sunshine. The Easterly wind direction blowing across the estuary does make for a short beat, so a second one was added; the feedback from the competitors was that the course was about as good as you can get with the restrictions of wind and depth of water.
The first start was at 12:30 with the RS Feva helmed by Rupert Hill and crewed by Tesni King, followed 15 minutes later by the Solo of Simon Deeks and Enterprise of Paul Young and Freya Mason. The largest fleet this year were the Merlins with 13 entries, followed by 8 RS400’s, and fleet of 6, of both Lasers and RS Aero’s.
The battle for the lead was on, clearly it wasn’t a Solo day as Simon was quickly passed, but another single hander the Laser of Ben Flower soon established a commanding lead, followed by the rather flashy new RS200 of Olly Turner and Sam Mottershead, who could only very slowly reduce the Laser’s lead. Two thirds of the way through the race it appeared that the high performance boats with either wings or trapeze would get to the front before the end of the race. But cruelly for them during the last 30 minutes of the race, the wind dropped a couple of knots and the advantage they had over the sitting out boats disappeared. The reduction in wind didn’t appear to effect Chris Hampe expertly sailing an International Canoe as he made steady progress through the fleet.
At the end of the race, clearly it was a Merlin day, in the lead was Jon Gorringe and Matt Currall, followed by another Merlin of Chris Gould and Caroline Croft. Third was Chris Hampe with Ben Flower fourth and Olly and Sam just behind in fifth.
With the moderate wind, and the way the course was set up, neither the single or double handers were favoured, it was a true test of skill with nine classes in the top 10, including three different single handers. It also reflects the accuracy of the Great Lakes handicap numbers which we use for the Steamer for open waters like the Exe Estuary.
With one of the biggest Steamer fleets ever, special thanks must go to Lympstone Sailing Club, Exe Sailing Club, Topsham Sailing Club and David Attenburrow for their generous help with the Safety boat duties. Together with the three club safety boats, we were confident that any challenges could be dealt with easily.
It takes a huge effort to put on the Steamer every year, so my thanks to the galley for producing more hot food and drink than ever before, the multihull fleet and non sailing members from Starcross who give up their time to organize and man the event. A special mention must be given to Sam Woolner of Exe Sails and Covers for supplying the fantastic prizes, which were appreciated by everyone. In total over 60 volunteers are required on the day both on and off the water and we look forward to doing it all again next year. Thank you also to the competitors who travel to Starcross every year, to make the Steamer so memorable. The difficult tides next year have made finding a suitable date very difficult, so after much debate we have decided to hold the Steamer for the first time ever on a Saturday, that date being March 16th, so please make a note in your diary now. The 30th Starcross Steamer will be back to the usual Sunday, earlier in the year on January 19th 2020. Planning for next year’s event has already started and we look forward to welcoming both old and new faces. A full list of the winners can be seen at the Starcross Yacht Club web site.
1st Jon Gorringe and Matt Currall Merlin Rocket 3791 Parkstone YC
2nd Chris Gould and Caroline Croft Merlin Rocket 3778 Blithfield SC
3rd Chris Hampe Int. Canoe 340 RYA
4th Ben Flower Laser 173126 Starcross YC
5th Olly Turner and Sam Mottershead RS 200 1667 Starcross YC
6th Mark Barnes and Charlotte Horlock B14 795 Whitst
7th Peter Barton RS Aero 7 2093 Lymington Town SC
8th Hugh Kingdon Blaze 803 North Devon YC
9th Chris Gill and Adam Broughton Fireball 15083 Portishead
10Th Simon Hawkes Phantom 1454 Wimbleball SC
First Lady Helm Emma Stevenson Osprey 1088 Weymouth SC
First Lady Crew Caroline Croft Merlin Rocket 3778 Blithfield SC
First Junior Noah Rees RS Aero 7 1230 Torpoint Mosquito SC